Zorro, the caped caballero of Old California, the spiritual grandfather of Batman and other costumed vigilantes, will be returning to television.
“Zorro, the Fox, so cunning and free, Zorro, he makes the sign of the Z!“
Zorro has been a television series at least four times, and a motion picture hero countless times. However, this new version will only be the third time a Hispanic actor has played Don Diego de la Vega, aka Zorro. Wilmer Valderrama, who won the Imagen Foundation Award for Best Supporting Actor as Special Agent Nick Torres in NCIS, will be the new Zorro, folling in the footsteps of Guy Williams, Duncan Regahr, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Tyrone Power, Henry Darrow, Frank Langella, Alain Deleon,and Antonio Banderas.
Just as Charlie Chan was traditionally played by a white actor, until Keye Luke voiced Charlie Chan in the Saturday morning cartoon, The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan in 1972, so Don Diego de la Vega has usually been played by a Gringo actor. Henry Darrow, who voiced Zorro in the cartoon The New Adventures of Zorro,and then played an aging Zorro in the short-lived comedy Zorro and Son. Antonio Banderas was the second Hispanic actor to play the masked protector of the poor in Old California in The Legend of Zorro (2005) and The Mask of Zorro(1998) Wilmer Valderrama will be the third actor of Hispanic heritage to play Zorro. His mother is Columbian. His father is Venezuelan.
“Growing up, Zorro was the one character that made me, as a Latino, feel like I could be a hero. As an adult and a storyteller, I have a responsibility for the stories that I help bring to life,” Valderama said. Hispanic-Americans are the largest minority group in the USA (roughly 16% of the population), but they are gravely under-represented in TV and movies.
Wilmer Valderrama will be executive producer and star of Disney’s new Zorro show. Valderrama is also currently producing the family comedy series Mexican Beverly Hills with Erick Galindo and Aaron Izek for CBS, and Hipster Death Rattle with Rafael Agustin and Marvin Lemus for the CW.
Ayo Davis, the President of Disney Branded Television, has said that the show is reimagining the classic ‘50s Disney TV show as a compelling period piece, set in Pueblo de Los Angeles, but told in a very modern telenovela style — with richly drawn contemporary characters and relationships set against the action, drama, suspense, and humor of the original, iconic Zorro.”
The character of Zorro was created in 1919 by Johnston McCulley, He first appeared in the story “The Curse of Capistrano” in All-Story Weekly in August 1919. Zorro appeared in a series of stories in assorted pulp magazines from 1919 to 1959. From 1967 to 1959, Disney had a Zorro TV show starring Guy Williams. Zorro set the example for Bruce Wayne and other costumed heroes: the brave, dashing masked avenger, and the milquetoast, foppish, almost effete Don Diego de la Vega.
Valderrama is no stranger to voice acting. He was Gaxton in Pixar’s Onward, and is the voice of Mirabel’s good-natured father Agustín Madrigal in Disney’s Encanto.
The new show, both starring and executive produced by Wilmer Valderrama, will be on Disney +.
Susan Macdonald is the author of the children’s book “R is for Renaissance Faire”, as well as short stories in “Alternative Truths”, “Swords and Sorceress #30”, “Supernatural Colorado”, “Barbarian Crowns”, “Cat Tails””Under Western Stars”, and “Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid”. Her articles have appeared on SCIFI.radio’s web site, in The Inquisitr, and in The Millington Star. She enjoys Renaissance Faires (see book above), science fiction conventions, Highland Games, and Native American pow-wows.